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A "Cremonen" Amati?


Shadi Bartsch
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Hi everyone,

I'm looking at a composite violin from a NY dealer with the following label:

Nicolaus Amatus, Cremonen Hieronymi

Fil. ac Antonii Nepo Fecit. 1647

The violin has a beautiful tone, but does anyone know if Nicolo Amati ever wrote Cremonen for Cremone (the latter itself a late Latin form for the locative Cremonae)? The dealer stands by the Amati origin for the back (and his high price!) and the instrument has D'Attili papers. However, a local Chicago dealer who looked at it id'd the instrument at 19th C. German.

Any info from someone with more experience than me would be greatly appreciated,

Shadi

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The wording of the label has absolutely nothing to do with the authenticity of the violin. Would it make you feel better to know that the person who put in the label in a fake violin spelled things properly, as opposed to finding a stupid label in an authentic violin? It happens both ways. The only issue is whether the violin is correct. In any case, it's highly unlikely that the label is original. Find an expert whom you trust, and go with what he says. Make sure you choose wisely.

[This message has been edited by Michael Darnton (edited 03-29-2001).]

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An Amati "label" written directly on the back is absolutely, unquestionably, not original. No doubt at all, not a bit. But that still doesn't say anything about the authenticity of the back that it's on. I edited my previous post just as you were writing the above, so you might go back and check it out.

[This message has been edited by Michael Darnton (edited 03-29-2001).]

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Originally posted by Kieren:

Is this the instrument you are looking at?

Hi Kieren -

If you don't mind, I'd rather not answer that. The dealer has been very kind in sending me his instruments and my intention is not to put into doubt his veracity, simply to find out more. I'm just an amateur player, and don't want to get in over my depth (unless I'm there already!) --

S.

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Dealer-smealer!

You're the one who's contemplating emptying your bank account, not the shop, who will also very kindly relieve you of said sum.

Finding out more might be the best move you make - think of it as a quest for the truth, rather than a personal attack on someone's integrity.

There is an enormous gulf between

17th century Italian and 19th century German

in monetary terms!

However, I understand your predicament -

(maybe your dealer is reading these posts at this very moment ... shocked.gif

If you're in Chicago you have access to some of the best expertise ~ even if you have to pay for the privelege, it could be a good learning experience.

But ultimately you have to trust someone and if you have the money and like what you see and hear, I presume the same dealer will also trade you in kind at some later date if you become disenchanted.

Omo.

[This message has been edited by Omobono (edited 03-30-2001).]

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The K. instrument says it's by Nicolaus [sic] Amati excepting the top and scroll. Which seems to be equivalent to 'only the back and sides are by N.Amati'.

Is that enough to make it a big deal? I thought I've read here that it's the top that does most of the musical work, the back and ribs playing more, tho not solely, structural roles. No?

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Well - it does look like a nice back! I'd like to have a back by Amati.

However, be aware that composite instruments should be nowhere near the price of complete examples. If it sounds great, get a professional opinion on value, test it with friends, and buy it, I say.

I guess the Dattili certificate is a good one to have.

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But how would you feel about paying Amati money for a German back? The D'Attili cert is only an asset if others agree with it. If you're into paying Amati prices for German violins that sound good, I think I can find you something :-)

quote:

Originally posted by Ole Bull:

Well - it does look like a nice back! I'd like to have a back by Amati.

However, be aware that composite instruments should be nowhere near the price of complete examples. If it sounds great, get a professional opinion on value, test it with friends, and buy it, I say.

I guess the Dattili certificate is a good one to have.

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I'm inclined to concede anyones right to their preferential purchase choices but this seems to be a rather expensive risk for someone who characterizes themselves as an amateur player. Granted, there are so called "amateurs" whose skill is a horsehair shy of the skill necessary to earn a living as a professional. It seems that a modern contemporary of known origin and potentially similar tonal quality would be a less risky venture. I've seen the dealer mentioned above offer instruments on ebay in the 15-20 thousand range. Hardly the kind of fair the average amateur would take seriously. In fact, I don't believe I've ever seen one actually find a buyer. Sofia, Gliga, stringworks... hmmm, seems a good selection of known quantities from which the amateur can safely choose without the risk or expense of a suspicious composite. Good luck and best regards.

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Thank all of you for this input. Here's what I'm hearing: a violin of dubious provenance, no matter what the tone, is a bad financial decision. Also, that attitudes towards D'Attili papers vary greatly. Oh, and that my original question about the spelling of Cremona doesn't interest anyone!

I don't know much about the Sofia and Gliga options mentioned by ShadowHawk. What are those? Also, I was of the opposite impression than Mairead: namely, that the back and ribs were the most important. But that may not even end up mattering here,

S.

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There is no mistaking the claim of the prospectus. Would an outfit like Kolstein misrepresent?? Or are we on forbidden territory here??

quote from Kolstein

quote:

The violin bears the label within dated 1647 and was made by Nicolo Amati with the exception of the top (the work of Vincentius Auscentio 1783) and scroll

[This message has been edited by fiddlefaddle (edited 03-30-2001).]

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A very general observation on violin expertise: Shops which are internationally-known for expertise have earned that respect by being consistently correct in their attributions......and then there's everyone else. The number of shops which would intentionally mislead are very few, but they do exist, and the number of shops who can give authoritative opinions are also very few. In between is everyone else, and most everyone-elses believe that when they have an opinion about something they are right. *Thinking* you are not right is not the same as *being* right.

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It's all very well to try and find a dealer you 'trust,' but is it a matter of veracity or competence? Veracity won't help if the dealer is incompetent, and competence won't help if the dealer's a crook.

The buyer of a fine violin has almost never handled the hundreds of instruments needed to acquire expertise. So, isn't it more a matter of faith than trust? The old dilemma....

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An interesting side issue to this is that the names that players come up with as who they would trust are often very different from those that dealers would name as having expertise. An ability that's implicit to becoming a con man is the knack for getting people to trust you; on the other hand, some very intellegent and moral people completely lack personal charisma. Some of the real geeks of violin expertise aren't extroverts--that's why they prefer dealing with violins rather than people. When you factor in that people love to be told what they want to hear, the winner of the popularity contest is often definitely not the person telling people what they *should* hear, but the one telling them what they *want* to hear.

I remember reading once that one preferred traditional method of slaughtering chickens was to hold the chicken in your arms, petting it and talking to it, calming it while discreetly slitting its throat. That way the chicken went to the pot without stress affecting it's taste. Some violin dealers operate the same way.

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What a gruesome image! Any other chickens out there waiting to be plucked?

Anyhow, I think my real problem is that it ISN'T easy to find another violin with the same tonal qualities. I've played now maybe 25 others in this search. Whatever this violin might be, it certainly sounds warmer and sweeter than all the 19th and 20th century instruments I've tried. I have a friend with a Gagliano and if anything, it sounds like her violin.

Sigh.

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Shadi,

It would likely be far more helpful to those trying to help if you offer a bit more detail regarding what you are looking for. You provided an example which appears well beyond the needs of the amateur player you claim to be. Of course, an amateur driver doesn't need a Dodge Viper, but if money is plentiful it becomes a matter of satisfying ones personal desires. If you are playing in a local 'home town' style orchestra, you certainly do not need to risk $15,000, even if the violin is as described. Violins found in the 2-4 thousand range, offered by prominent makers, will typically satisfy the needs of advanced players and certainly your average amateur. Think of it like golf clubs. Having a great set may take a stroke or two off your game, but you'll still be average. On the other hand, a master will beat you with the worst set of clubs. In the case of the violin, I truly believe the sound produced has far more to do with the skill of the player than the instrument. I have a wonderful instrument that frankly, sounds rather poor to me when I play. I've had others who vastly exceed my skill play my instrument. It serves to remind me that the instrument is capable of far more than my poor skill can extract. It also serves as a reminder that buying a more expensive instrument will not compensate for, nor circumvent the years of practice ahead of me.

You asked about the gliga and sofia models I mentioned earlier. Gliga violins are from the Vasile Gliga shop in Romania. Christian Gliga (I believe he is Vasiles son) runs a web site offering several models (http://www.violinslover.com/). Prices run from a few hundred well up into the thousands. You'll see many, many recommendations for these instruments if you search for the word gliga on maestronet. You'll also find simliar comments about the sofia, particularly the grand models. the SHAR web site (http://www.sharmusic.net/home.htm) offers these instruments. A nice Guarneri replica runs about $3,000. A Master artist outfit can be had for well under $4,000. I wish you well in your search and hope you find what makes you happy.

[This message has been edited by ShadowHawk (edited 03-31-2001).]

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Originally posted by ShadowHawk:

Shadi,

You'll also find simliar comments about the sofia, particularly the grand models. the SHAR web site (http://www.sharmusic.net/home.htm) offers these instruments. A nice Guarneri replica runs about $3,000. A Master artist outfit can be had for well under $4,000. I wish you well in your search and hope you find what makes you happy.

--

As the proud owner of a Sofia Grande -- Stoyanov Guarneri replica, I'd be willing to pit it (for sound quality) against any instrument I have tried up to $5,000 (I tried almost 300, both antique and new), and many up to triple that amount.

Sometimes I think violins should be heard first with blindfolds on, then played with blindfolds on, and then, finally, looked at with no price tags on them.

Of course, if what you are trying to buy is an antique, then that's another story. But I'd be willing to bet that the average (I don't mean the best, just the average) David Gusset violin at least 10 years old would fare quite well in my test against the average Strad.

But we'll never have the opportunity to find out, will we? And that partially accounts for the ridiculous market in old wood.

[

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I have to say i totally disagree with Shadowhawk, and cannot frankly understand this attitude. One doesn't have to be a race car driver to appreciate the comforts beauty and luxury of a fine violin. <--- that is what i first wrote, it's too funny, so i'm not gonna change it to what i meant to write, lol

Here is another analogy (hopefull sensical this time), one does not have to be a virtuosos pianist to appreciate the fact that a nice steinway grand sounds and plays better than a cheap "student" model. The Kochanski del Gesu is still a brilliant sounding instrument, and WILL sound bettern than ANY Gliga EVER made PERIOD, when the two are played side by side by the same person. I don't have to be the editor of audiophile monthly in order to appreciate that a really nice stereo system sounds better than a $50 sony walkman. IF somebody else cannot tell the difference between these things, then i am happy for them, but that does not mean that there is not a difference, or that being able to discern such a distinction requires some grandiose level of skill (which would basically mean that the distinction is insignificant). In the (some of them were full of future professionals) student orchestras i was in, most of the students at or above my level could NOT tell the differrence between good tone and sound, or even playability for that matter, and bad. Why this is, I have no idea, but for those of us who COULD make such discernments, it really does make a big difference. The myth of the "student" violin is a myth; these violins are not inherently suited for the student, the student would be just as better served (or at least very nearly) by a nice Strad as Itzakh Perlman is, but the economics of providing the student with an instrument are what has created the "student" violin. With violins that sound really good, there's no magic to making them sound good, just draw a bow across the open strings, and THEY SOUND GOOD! A better violin sounds better, and this means a lot to many people, including many beginners, many of whom i am sure quit (i almost did) because they are inherently hampered by the raspy sounds of a cheap student violin. Fluidity and vibrato can do a lot, but you are still limited by your fundamental hardware, and in some ways a nice sounding instrument will mean even more to the less advanced player, because they cannot supplement the violins sound with extravagant and exaggerated techniques of tone production that a more advanced violinist will use to make a piece of junk sound better than it really is.

Shantinik, I totally agree with you about the modern violins, but there is a big difference between a modern masterwork and a nice modern factory instrument like Gliga. I think the main reason modern instruments are beginning to be really embraced by performers, is that the past 30 years or so have seen a kind of neo-renaissance in violin making. Economic factors also drive performers to new instruments, but these same economic factors are greatly responsible for the wonderful blossoming of the craft/art of lutherie that we are witnessing today.

Shadi, here is how i would advise you. I hope you think about it, but take it with a grain of salt, cause you are talking about a lot of money, and i am just a jabbermouth on the internet.

1) you want the best POSSIBLE violin you can afford to buy, no?

2) you have a considerably sum of money to spend on a new violin, no?

You have the money, so buy the best violin you can buy. If this is just for playing, then the decision should be simple: buy the BEST playing violin you can find. Period. If it costs $5000 fine, if it costs at the very top of your budget, also fine, and you will know you got the best you could find. If this "Amati" is the one, then buy it. If you aren't sure, then maybe you should shop around a while more. The Amati is not likely to go anywhere right away, it's been there for over a decade (if you think you will be devestated if you send it back and it then SELLS to someone else, then it certainly seems like maybe what you are looking for). If you're buying it to play, then buy it to play, and don't let anybody talk smack to you about it wink.gif In the worst case, you have one of the most beautiful playing violins you have ever touched, with an enormous, romantic, and known history behind it (I'm assuming that you are talking about the Kolstein violin), much of which has been certified by two different respectable sources to have been made by one of the greatest, most respected, and most sought after violin makers of all time.

Buy what YOU like, and you can't be too dissapointed. What if you find out your dream violin is not made by maker X, does that suddenly make a whole bunch of better instruments appear out of nowhere? I think not. I have met a virtuoso violinist who plays a $5000 violin by an obscure mid 20th Century American maker, because it plays like a dream. That was great for her to find a dream instrument so cheap, but there are plenty of other virtuosos who picked up an exhorbitantly priced violin at a shop, just for fun, and discovered something so wonderful in it's sound and feel, that they practically sold their house and went into enormous debt just to be able to always play that instrument when they wanted to. The point is not to hunt for the $5000 dream, the point is that if you can make your dream of a great playing violin come true, then once you have the violin, when you're at home playing it every day, it doesn't really matter how much you payed for it.

If you are buying as an investment, DON'T. There are better, safer investments to be had.

Whatever you do, (i think am really wandering around in this post) remember that it is for your own enjoyment in playing, and that is ALL that matters: YOUR own enjoyment in playing.

Heck, people even debate whether or not the Messiah strad is for real; you can't win that game. In the end i think, you gotta buy what you like, and what you can afford, or else admit you are a fool wink.gif

i must go to bed now that it is 4am in the morning, sorry if this post is really wild or bizarre, and to anybody i may have offended. i'm not even sure what i wrote... definitely time for bed.

Cheers.

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I'd be interested to know when the D'Attili certificate was written and EXACTLY what it says. Generally speaking his papers from years ago had more clout than his more recent ones. So, we have a dealer in NY selling a violin for a lot of money, a dealer in Chicago who says it's German, and Shadi Bartsch stuck in the middle. Considering the price of the violin I think what you need is a good referee. There's a saying which is used in violin circles which goes something like "Don't bring a Ford to a Chevy dealer for an opinion". Without trying to cast any doubt upon the integrity of the dealers in Chicago and in New York, I would get as many good, profesional, unbiased opinions as possible.

Barry

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Originally posted by Alistair:

Shantinik, I totally agree with you about the modern violins, but there is a big difference between a modern masterwork and a nice modern factory instrument like Gliga.

---

Since I've never played a Gliga in my life that I would have even considered buying (but I've never seen the ones actually made by Gliga!), I can't comment. I was only talking about modern handmades (whether in Oregon, in the case of David Gusset, or Bulgaria, in the case of Stoyanov -- and there are several Polish and Slovakian master makers I'd add to the mix).

But I think your advice is right on point.

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